On January 14, 1942, U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt issued Proclamation 2537. This document laid the groundwork for Executive Order 9066 and the internment of Japanese-American citizens during World War II. More than 100,000 Japanese Americans were removed from their homes and placed in camps in the western United States as part of the largest forced relocation in U.S. history.

Following the bombing of Pearl Harbor a month earlier, the U.S. government decided to place American citizens of Japanese descent in internment camps for the duration of the war. The military suspected that Japanese Americans might be loyal to Japan, and explained that the detentions would prevent Japanese Americans from spying on or sabotaging U.S. military efforts.

Social justice groups protested the internment as a violation of Japanese Americans’ civil rights. In 1944, in the landmark case Korematsu v. United States, the Supreme Court ruled that the detainment of loyal American citizens was constitutional. Although the last internment camps closed in 1946, Korematsu was not overturned until 2018.

citizen
Noun

member of a country, state, or town who shares responsibilities for the area and benefits from being a member.

civil rights
Plural Noun

set of fundamental freedoms guaranteed to all individuals, such as participation in the political system, ability to own property, and due process and equal protection under the law.

detain
Verb

to confine or delay.

forced relocation
Noun

migration of people from one place to another, as ordered by the government or international authority.

Franklin Roosevelt
Noun

(1882-1945) 32nd president of the United States.

government
Noun

system or order of a nation, state, or other political unit.

internment
Noun

confinement.

military
Noun

armed forces.

Pearl Harbor attack
Noun

(1941) air assault by Japanese on American forces at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, which led to American entry into World War II.

unconstitutional
Adjective

against the laws of the United States Constitution.

World War II
Noun

(1939-1945) armed conflict between the Allies (represented by the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union) and the Axis (represented by Germany, Italy, and Japan.)